Saturday, October 12, 2013

It's Not About Being Right

My veil--Dedicated to Lugh.
Last weekend, I went to the local Unitarian Universalists' ritual for Mabon. I hadn't been to the monthly meetings since Lughnasa. Prior to going to this ritual, I wondered if my presence would be unwelcomed. Not outwardly, but because I don't practice in the way the rituals were conducted and my growing resentment towards how the Wiccan Wheel of the Year is constructed.

But I did end up going, and I have a lot of commentary about the entire experience.

First off, I have managed to shift my resentment towards the Wiccan Wheel of the Year to be only at Gerald Gardner and the Wheel itself, and not the people who use it. After all, while I am annoyed and peeved that Sabbat Mabon has nothing to do with the Welsh figure Mabon or his mythology, or that Lughnasa is celebrated with no reverence for its origins, it is hardly fair to hold this against people who read five books about paganism and all five books reference the Wheel of the Year as a pagan tradition. So while I do not like the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, I have cooled down my fervor towards eradicating it. There are bigger problems to address, and one that doesn't try to erase someone's belief in something so popularized.

But, I still felt wary about attending the ritual because of how left out I felt. While the UU pagan group calls the rituals "Pagan", my branch of paganism is left out. I am a hard polytheistic Gaelic practitioner who doesn't honor the four elements (earth, water, fire, and air) nor do I worship The God and The Goddess. My way is certainly not the only way, but the rituals aren't labeled as NeoWiccan or Wiccan-based. The night before the ritual, though, I talked to some friends in the Pagan Tumblr Community and devised a inter-faith pagan ritual skeleton. I messaged my friend within the UU group about the idea, and she was very supportive of the idea. I even talked to my romantic partner how to present this idea without offending the previous rituals, since he's famously more diplomatic than I am. And I don't want to come off that my way is superior or that their way was imperfect. They were wonderful for what they were, but I just want to start a ritual that includes my spiritual beliefs as much as the other person's.

Anyway, I never got the chance to show it to the group. Why that is I will mention later, but I still have the outline printed and will see about trying to host my own rituals next year alongside their rituals (on a different evening.) We'll see how it goes.

At the ritual, we spent a lot of time talking while waiting for a final member to arrive off of work. While talking, my friend poked fun at my annoyance with Starhawk (I plan on posting my overall review once I can finally finish the book.) I then explained that I would like her a lot more if she didn't push the idea that witchcraft was religious. A person in the group asked me if I then thought Wicca wasn't a real religion. I responded that, "No, Wicca is a religion. But witchcraft itself is not inherently religious. It can be secular." To my wonderful surprise, a few people then discussed how that made sense since they knew Christian and Jewish witches. I even was able to mention that Satanist can consider themselves Pagan if they so wish, in response to someone saying that pagans don't believe in Satan.

The ritual went very nicely, with the bulk of the ritual being about sharing stories of how we were thankful. During the opening and closing of the ritual, I tried to focus inward on my beliefs. I wore a veil that seemed to help, allowing me to focus on Lugh and not the abstract God and Goddess.

After the ritual, when I would have wanted to share about my ritual skeleton, I instead got into a passionate discussion with someone about cultural appropriation. I brought it upon myself by mentioning my boycott of Next Millenium. While tempted to label this as an "argument", I don't want to give off the impression that there was any anger. There wasn't. There was passion, though, from at least myself. It wasn't about what I consider to be the definitive "no-nos" of cultural appropriation, but more so the gray areas. Such as: was it my place at all to speak on behalf of another culture? Which, to my advantage, was recently brought up on my Tumblr blog. And that is a tightrope I think I'm on, which I may or may not have already slipped on. Because I have white privilege, and part of that white privilege can easily be that my voice should trump others. It is not. I tend to just echo the sentiments I read from the blog Native Appropriations, My Culture Is Not a Trend, and This Is Not Native. I don't think it's right for me to remain silent in a group of non-Natives when they participate in harmful cultural appropriation.

That is my view, of course, and the person I was primarily talking too disagreed (or at least challenged me on that viewpoint.)

But for once, my friend from UU stuck by my side for the issue. She is understands cultural appropriation, because that is something Starhawk does a great job advocating against, and my friend wants to protect the Hispanic cultures she works with. Ehe, she even made me a corn figure (wasn't quite a doll?) without any products from Next Millennium because she respects my boycott.

At the end of the night, I was able to thank the person for the discussion and there were not harsh feelings. The argument itself never fell into mudslinging at each other (I don't consider someone pointing out my white privilege mudslinging.) It was, on a whole, passionate but not respectful. Disagreeing but respectful. And--umff--does that feel good. Not many people these days in or out of the pagan community understand that having a disagreement is fine. It isn't about being right. It's about exchanging ideas, viewpoints, and even being challenged in how you think. I love being challenged in how I think because if I can't answer that challenge it means I need to think more, or do more research, or change my perspective or view. If I hadn't been challenged in my beliefs, I may never had found Gaelic Polytheism which I am so happy about right now.

Samhain is the next ritual. While I don't think I will be able to offer my interfaith ritual, I plan on sharing the Gaelic Samhain to the group. Explain about how the parent culture celebrates Samhain, and share some traditional food and/or divination of some sort. The ritual may not be something I spiritually identify with, but I can share my cultural leanings nonetheless.

How do you handle conversations in which your viewpoints clash with others?

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